Keep Track of Your Kids With Geofences

Your teenager's worst nightmare has come true

A screen capture of a geofense boundary
Footprints for iPhone Geofence Setup Screen.

Most smartphones these days have GPS-based location services as a standard feature. Location services allow your phone to know where it is so that you can utilize features such as GPS navigation and other location-aware apps.

Now that everyone is bored with geotagging pictures and "checking in" at different locations, it's time to throw something new in the mix to further reduce our privacy.

Enter: The Geofence.

Geofences are imaginary boundaries that can be set up in location-aware applications, allowing users to trigger notifications or other actions when someone with a location-aware device that is being tracked, enters or leaves the predetermined area that was established within the location-aware app.

Let's look at a real world example of how Geofences are used. Alarm.com allows their customers (with the appropriate subscription) to go to a special web page and draw a Geofence around their home or business on a map. They can then have Alarm.com send them a reminder to arm their alarm system remotely when Alarm.com detects that their phone has left the predetermined Geofence area.

Apple's Siri Assistant also utilizes Geofence technology to allow for location-based reminders. You can tell Siri to remind you to let the dogs out when you get home and she will use your location and the area around your home as a Geofence to trigger the reminder.

There are obviously huge potential privacy and security implications regarding the use of Geofence applications, but when you're a parent trying to keep up with your children, you likely don't care about those issues.

If your child has a smartphone, Geofences are their worst parental control-related nightmare.

How to set up Geofence Notifications to Track Your Child on an iPhone:

If your child has an iPhone, you can use Apple's very own Find My Friends app (on your iPhone) to track down your child and have Geofence-based notifications sent to you when they enter or leave a designated area.

In order to track your child's location, you'll first need to "invite" your child via the Find My Friends app and have them accept your request to see their location status from your iPhone.

You can send them an "invitation" via the app. Once they approve the connection, you will have access to their current location information unless they hide it from you within the app or disable location services. There are parental controls available to help prevent them from disabling the app but there are no guarantees that the controls will stop them from turning off tracking or their phone.

Once you've invited and been accepted as a "follower" of their location information, then you can set a notification for when they exit or enter a Geofence area that you designate. Unfortunately, you can only set one notification event at a time from your phone. If you want multiple notifications for several different locations, then you will need to setup reoccurring notifications from their device, as Apple decided that this particular feature was best enabled only by the person being tracked and not by the person tracking them.

If you're looking for a more robust tracking solution you should consider Footprints for iPhone. It costs $3.99 per year but it has some really neat Geofence-related features such as location history. It can also track to see if your kids are breaking the speed limit while their driving (or being driven).

Footprints also features built-in parental controls to help keep your kids from going "stealth mode" on you.

Setting up Geofence Notifications on Android Phones:

I was unable to locate Geofence notifications in a 1st party Android app from Google. Currently I don't believe Google Latitude supports Geofences as of yet. Your best bet for finding a Geofence-capable Android app is to look into a 3rd party solution such as Life 360, or Family by Sygic both of which feature geofence capabilities.

Setting up Geofence Notifications for Other Types of Phones:

Even if your child doesn't have an Android-based phone or an iPhone you may still be able to use location tracking Geofence services by subscribing to carrier-based "Family Location" services such as those offered by Verizon and Sprint.

Check with your carrier to see what geofence services they offer and which phones are supported. Costs for carrier-based tracking services start at around $5 per month.

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